Is the AARP Becoming Too Left-Wing?

Left-wing leaning may alienate some of the group's members


This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," October 7, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST: In the "Impact Segment" tonight, the AARP remains the most powerful lobbying group on behalf of senior citizens in the USA. An astounding 40 million Americans belong to the AARP. But for years there have been charges that the organization has evolved into a left-wing concern. A new TV ad speaks to that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My grocery bill isn't wasteful spending.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My heart medication isn't some political gain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our retirement isn't a simple budget line item.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I paid into my Medicare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I earned my Social Security.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, instead of cutting waste and loopholes, Washington wants to cut our benefits?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That wasn't the agreement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Join the members of AARP and tell Washington to stop cuts to our Medicare and Social Security benefits.


O'REILLY: Now, earlier this week I talked with AARP President Lee Hammond.


O'REILLY: So, Mr. Hammond, the rap on the AARP is that it is just too left-wing. You have heard that. I'm sure you have.

LEE HAMMOND, AARP PRESIDENT: Well, we hear that, but you know, our membership is as diverse as the country.

O'REILLY: I agree. I'm a member. But, you know, I have to say I'm growing increasingly suspect of your editorial position. It's not because I'm an ideologue but I was going over some of my back editions of the AARP magazine.

Let me just read you some of the names that you have had on the cover and maybe you can just tell me. You had Michelle Obama on the cover and that makes sense. Robert Redford, all right? Harrison Ford, Danny Glover, Richard Gere, Bill Cosby, Ron Howard, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Dustin Hoffman, Bruce Springsteen, Kevin Spacey, Brian Williams, Martin Sheen and Steven Spielberg. Every one of them is a left-winger. Every one of them.

The only conservative you have had on your cover in recent years has been President Bush. What's that all about?

HAMMOND: Well, the covers on the magazines sell. That's what the pickup rate is on the magazine.

O'REILLY: Ok. But what I'm saying to you is I just read you 15 names and they are all liberal people and you have one conservative -- 15 to 1. I can't sit here and say that there isn't a conservative that you could put on the cover that would sell. I know there is and so do you.

HAMMOND: Certainly there would be.

O'REILLY: Then why haven't they been there.

HAMMOND: I don't know.

O'REILLY: You are the editor.

HAMMOND: No, I'm not.

O'REILLY: Well, not the editor, you are the president of AARP. You have inputs.

HAMMOND: I'm the president of AARP as a volunteer.

O'REILLY: And do you volunteer your opinion that it's becoming too left wing?

HAMMOND: We volunteer our opinions all the time.

O'REILLY: Did you tell them that this might be not fair and balanced, this magazine that comes out?

HAMMOND: No. I haven't looked at the magazine that way.

O'REILLY: Ok. You ran a spot. We ran a spot about the people saying look, we don't want our entitlements messed with. And I understand that position. I mean, elderly senior citizens pay into Medicare. They pay into Social Security and they don't want to get chopped. There isn't any bill in the world that's actually saying senior citizens are going to lose their entitlements. But, yet, you have this commercial that implies they might.

HAMMOND: Well, indeed they might.

O'REILLY: Based on what?

HAMMOND: There is no bill yet at this point.

O'REILLY: Right. And not anybody even suggesting it.

HAMMOND: No. I would disagree with you there a little bit.


HAMMOND: There are numbers of people suggesting it.


HAMMOND: Numbers of people in the Congress have suggested it.

O'REILLY: Give me one name who's suggesting they want to take or modify Social Security or Medicare for present seniors?

HAMMOND: There has been a lot of conversation around that, Bill. It's not just --

O'REILLY: Can you give me one name, Mr. Hammond? Just one.

HAMMON: I know that the Minority Whip in the house, who is a Democrat, has indicated that there is still broad discussion about making it even deeper cuts.

O'REILLY: Ok. I have to go on the record as saying there is no politician that I know of that has threatened to introduce legislation that would cut any entitlement at all for present seniors.

HAMMOND: There are lots of things in play.

O'REILLY: Where? I do this for a living. I have never seen it.

HAMMOND: They were in play with the debt reduction committee. They were in play with the --

O'REILLY: All under 40. It's all reforming for the younger Americans because they are going to run out of money.

All right. Let's just move on to one more thing. Look. I want the AARP to lobby for senior citizens. I want that. Senior citizens need a powerful lobby --

HAMMOND: You are absolutely right.

O'REILLY: Ok. You are not really doing it for all senior citizens in my opinion, respectfully, respectfully. I read the magazine, which is the only outlet I have to know what you guys are doing. It's a left-wing magazine. That's what it is now. That's what it has become. Your organization has become that.

And I would like to see you get back into the center and really look at these things. To your credit, and AARP's credit you did object to cap- and-trade. You did do that. You are not doctrinaire all the way down the line.

But it's one thing after another here. And I think that basically senior citizens need an independent voice. I will give you the last word.

HAMMOND: Well, I would hope that you would look at things a little differently if you knew the entire breadth of the organization. Because indeed we do work for our members. These are the people who tell us what we need to do.

O'REILLY: All right. Mr. Hammond thanks for coming in. We appreciate it. Nice to see you.

HAMMOND: Thank you, Bill.